This lesson explores how racial discrimination affected the economic outlook for African Americans in the twentieth century. It examines segregated conditions in stores and businesses, common discriminatory hiring practices, and some of the grassroots campaigns developed in response to discrimination.
In the first half of the lesson, students use primary source materials to examine two demonstrations that took place before the Civil Rights Act of 1964: a student-led boycott in the South and an interracial, urban coalition on the West Coast, both focused on economic equality for all people. In the second half of the lesson, students examine economic strategies of the mid- to late 1960s: Martin Luther King's Chicago campaign of 1966 and the Freedom Budget of 1966, a blueprint for ending poverty.
- Identify examples of racial discrimination in the workplace
- Analyze the economic implications of racial discrimination
- Identify and examine strategies for social action, harnessing individual and community resources
- Examine and compare different economic campaigns and strategies
- Describe how economic justice was a consistent thread throughout the Civil Rights movement, affecting all regions of the country
- Two to three class periods
- Eleventh Commandment Flyer Document
- Rev. Frank Dukes: Selective Buying Campaign Video
- Decision in the Streets Video
- Bayard Rustin: A Freedom Budget, Part 2 Audio
- Copies of the SCLC's Chicago Plan Document
Before the Lesson
Examine the resources ahead of time to familiarize yourself with the lesson content. Read the background article on the resource page for each resource, and add any questions for discussion that relate to people and events your class may be studying. Print and copy the PDF documents, watch the videos, and listen to the Freedom Budget speech excerpt.
Part I: Understanding Economic Equality
1. Using the background articles for reference, provide an overview of legalized segregation before the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Help students understand that discrimination extended beyond water fountains and restaurants to hiring practices and housing plans.
Then ask the class to brainstorm answers to the following questions:
- How could racial discrimination affect an individual's job prospects and financial position? How might it affect a community and its economy?
- What are some strategies for responding to discriminatory hiring practices?
- What were some economic goals of the Civil Rights movement? Encourage the class to think broadly.
Part II: Waking the Sleeping Giant
2. Distribute the Eleventh Commandment Flyer and the background article. Ask students to read the background article and analyze the flyer. Ask students to look for clues in the document to help them answer the following questions:
Descriptive Questions: What does it say?
- Who produced the flyer? When?
- Who was supposed to read, see, or hear it?
- What does it say? What story does it tell?
Analytical Questions: What does it mean?
- Why was it produced? What purpose or purposes was it intended to serve?
- What does it reveal about the values, beliefs, institutions, and problems of the individual, group, or community that produced it?
- Who or what is the "sleeping giant" that needs to wake up?
- What does the flyer reveal about how economic conditions change over time?
3. Have students examine the document's signatories. Explain that they will be watching an interview with Frank Dukes, who was a student at Miles College and one of the organizers of the campaign advertised in the Eleventh Commandment Flyer.
4. Show the Rev. Frank Dukes: Selective Buying Campaign Video. (You may also wish to distribute copies of the background article and/or the full interview transcript.) Ask students to write their answers to the following questions, then discuss them together as a class:
- What were some of the conditions in Birmingham that Dukes was trying to change?
- What were the potential risks of mounting a selective buying campaign?
- Who was involved in the campaign? What did each group contribute?
- Dukes says, "We had done our research." What research was required in order to mount and sustain the Selective Buying Campaign? Cite specific examples from the video and the flyer.
- What strategic steps did the campaign use? Why were they effective?
- What did they call the boycott a "selective buying campaign?"
- Dukes says, "Had it not been for the success of the Selective Buying Campaign, there wouldn't have been the demonstration of '63." Why was selective buying a useful strategy and powerful tool to achieve the goals of the Civil Rights movement?
- As a result of the campaign, what changed and what did not?
* Extend your knowledge
Ask students to imagine that they are organizing a selective buying campaign in their own community to protest unfair hiring practices. Look at the language of the Eleventh Commandment Flyer
- What research would be necessary to revise the flyer to support the campaign?
- How would a flyer designed today differ from one designed in 1962?
- What technological resources could be used in researching, designing, and distributing the flyer today that were not available in 1962?
Part III: Protest and Organizing in San Francisco
5. Show the Decision in the Streets Video and distribute the background essay. Ask students to write their answers to the following questions, then discuss them together as a class:
- Why might San Franciscans have believed that their city was different from other parts of the country? Do you think that everyone in San Francisco believed this was true? Who might have had a different opinion and why?
- In what ways were San Francisco's problems different from those of other parts of the country, such as Birmingham? In what ways were they similar?
- What strategies were used in the San Francisco protests? Why do you think they were so successful? Do you think that these same strategies would have been effective in other cities? Why or why not?
- In addition to job discrimination, what other inequities were San Francisco activists trying to end?
- What was the significance of the protests for the San Francisco area? Why were they significant for the rest of the country?
* Extend your knowledge:
Have students write hypothetical letters to the editors of 1960s San Francisco newspapers on "Why we really don't have a problem here," or "Why we have a problem here." In their letters, students should describe themselves (i.e., their persona), including race, socioeconomic background, and other factors that might influence their perspective. Encourage students to do research on San Francisco in the 1960s in order to realistically develop their personas.
Part IV: Making the Case for an Economic Program
6. Distribute the SCLC's Chicago Plan Document. Ask students to read the article and familiarize themselves with the housing conditions in that city in the 1960s. Ask students to write their answers to the following questions, then discuss them together as a class:
- Why did African Americans move to northern cities like Chicago? What conditions (social and economic) were they leaving in the South, and what did they hope to find in the North?
- In what ways was life in the urban cities of the North different from life in the South for African Americans? In what ways was it the same?
7. The same year that the SCLC proposed the Chicago Plan, a national proposal for a Freedom Budget was drafted. Distribute the background article and have students listen to Bayard Rustin: A Freedom Budget, Part 2. Then ask:
- Why does Rustin describe a shift in strategy?
- Do you agree with Rustin's statement of the problem? Why or why not?
- What does an economic plan have to do with freedom?
- What are the components of the Freedom Budget?
- What does Rustin say is needed in order to create change in the new period of struggle?
- Why did the Freedom Budget never get implemented? What would it take for it to succeed?
Check for Understanding
Have students discuss or write their responses to the following:
- What were the economic implications of racial discrimination for African Americans? Give specific examples of discriminatory hiring practices, housing plans, etc.
- What were some of the segregated conditions in different regions of the country?
- Describe some of the grassroots campaigns designed to eliminate discrimination, including the specific individuals involved, the strategies they used, and the outcomes achieved.
- What does economic equality have to do with the overarching goals of the Civil Rights movement?